Spooktober 2020: The Spook is Back Again

It’s looking like I probably won’t watch as many movies/shows this year as I did last year for my annual marathon. This time last year, I would have told you that it’s because I’ve got a wedding coming up. But this year, it’s because of the pandemic. Now, this might not seem to make much sense since I am working fewer hours and I’m not spending a large portion of my day commuting, but that’s precisely why I’m watching fewer movies this month compared to last year. Last year, I was working long hours and spending about two to three hours per day commuting (depending on traffic). When I got home at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was watch tv and rest. And when the weekend came around, I just wanted to camp out on the couch and binge because I was so exhausted from the work week. But now, because I am no longer working that job, I don’t experience that kind of exhaustion. Yes, I’m still exhausted from the stresses of the pandemic and my upcoming wedding (now on COVID Plan D – the tiniest of ceremonies), but my schedule is flexible enough that I can take the time to take care of myself so that I don’t get worn out too badly. So instead, the bulk of my Spooktober Marathon occurs while I’m doing things: while I’m working out, while I’m making dinner, while I’m having a mini date night with Mark. I really only take the time to sit and knit and rest for one movie at the end of the day. And because I don’t get burnt out during the week, I still have energy to get stuff done on the weekends, so I don’t immediately fall into binge watching. The pandemic really has been both the worst and best thing to happen; it feels great to be prioritizing my health for a change.

“Hi I’m Chucky! Wanna Play?”

The Haunting of Hill House (2018): I am actually appalled by how long it took me to cross this one off of my to-watch list. Especially since I read the novel by Shirley Jackson for school years ago and loved it. This show is every bit as good as I’ve heard people say it is. The editing and cinematography are fantastic, and the special effects makeup is really well done. And I also appreciate the fact that there are extra ghosts hidden in plain sight in some of the scenes (you really have to keep an eye out for them though). I also really enjoyed how the story played with time and perception; you really only get a clear picture of what’s truly going on once you see everyone’s point of view. And all of the twists and turns kept me excited and interested from start to finish. My only complaint: although I liked the happy ending, I was almost hopping for something a little darker (and maybe a little less happy).

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018): After finishing Hill House, I was in the mood to watch something else inspired by the works of Shirley Jackson. I haven’t read this particular novel yet, but I’m certainly interested in adding it to my list. Although this movie isn’t really a horror or Halloween related film, there is a bit of spookiness surrounding the mysterious murders at the heart of this story. And Merricat definitely feels like a witch because she’s different from everyone else, she has a black cat, she has an extensive knowledge of poisons, and she performs little “spells” buy burying items for protection. The main issue I had with the movie, however, was that the revelation of who the murderer was really wasn’t that much of a surprise. I felt like it was pretty obvious, and yet in the scene in which this information is revealed, it felt as if that moment was supposed to be more of a surprise than it actually was.

Hubie Halloween (2020): I’m not usually a fan of Adam Sandler movies, but since this one is Halloween related I thought I’d give it a try. There’s not really a whole lot to say about this film other than it’s a typical Adam Sandler comedy. This isn’t the kind of movie that I’ll ever want to watch again, but I will admit that I at least had a few good laughs. The story was pretty simple and predictable, but there were a few good moments. Although Mark and I did have a few different theories about the identity of the kidnapper, it was pretty obvious and not much of a surprise. Overall, it was just an ok film.

The Ritual (2018): Based on the trailer, and the first 30 minutes of the film, I was expecting this to be a lot scarier than it actually was. There were some scares, some gore, and lots of tension and suspense, but I kept wanting more. Even during the last half hour of the film, I was expecting to see things that would leave me deeply disturbed, but it never quite got that far. I really enjoyed the story, but I feel that based on the subject matter the movie could have gone for some more intense scares and gore. I did really appreciate the fact that you never quite saw the monster in its entirety until near the end. The story works so much better when you don’t actually know what’s out there in the woods.

I’m DYING to watch more scary movies.

Ghost Stories (2020): This Indian anthology film features four short untitled movies all by different directors. Each story is unique in style and content, but all of them are sufficiently spooky and creepy. It’s hard to decide, but I think that the second film in the anthology had my favourite style/cinematography, and it’s a toss up between the first and fourth for my favourite story. And although the second film had some pretty decent creature makeup and practical effects, the third film is the clear winner in that category. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I also noticed that all four films featured some kind of destructive parent/child relationship. In fact, it was these relationships that resulted in the deaths in each film. I really enjoyed this.

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020): The followup series to The Haunting of Hill House, this particular show is inspired by Henry James’ The Turning of the Screw (which I just read for the first time last year!). Whereas Hill House merely took the characters and situations of the original source material and created a whole new story, Bly Manor stuck a little more closely to its source material (although it still took parts of the story in a whole new direction). Hill House was definitely the stronger of the two shows, but I still really enjoyed Bly Manor. I loved the way they treated the ghosts in this series, both in their creation and appearances, and I enjoyed the way the story played with the concept of memory. My main complaint was that I wish the narration had been a bit more consistent; James’ work is a story within a story, so it was nice to see that the show kept this, but sometimes the narration felt like an afterthought. I really hope that Netflix continues to make more The Haunting shows. I would love to see the ensemble cast return for more modern adaptations of classic ghost stories. If someone from Netflix would like to contact me, I have ideas for what novels they could use next 😛

The Turning (2020): Mark showed me the trailer for this not too long after I finished reading The Turning of the Screw and I got so excited that there was going to be a modern movie adaptation of the book I had enjoyed. The trailer looked awesome, so this was one of the films that I was most excited about watching this year for Spooktober. And after watching Bly Manor, I was pumped for this! Unfortunately, The Turning turned out to be a massive letdown. Visually, the film had a pretty decent style, but the plot was a mess. Both The Turning and Bly Manor cut elements from the original source material in order to suit their more modern narratives, but this movie just cut too much. And then it tried to add in a bunch of unnecessary stuff in its place. There were so many extra elements added that just took away from the story; and since this movie is just over an hour and a half long, all of this stuff wasted time that could have been better spent elsewhere. This also led to gaping plot holes. Do we ever really find out why Flora thinks she’s going to die if she leaves the property? Then the ending came. It was as if the creative team couldn’t decide how the end the film, so they stuck two potential endings together and hoped for the best. It was just a mess, and the whole “it was just a vision” component felt like a cop-out. The true ending of the film ended up revolving around some of those unnecessary extras that had been added in and not properly addressed. I was so disappointed with this one.

Dark City (1998): Although this mystery/thriller is more sci-fi than horror, it’s certainly spooky enough to end up on my list. The Strangers added sufficient spook factor with their creepy chattering and long black coats; and they even kind of looked like Cenobites (from Hellraiser) in some scenes. Whether it’s creepy enough or not, this is 100% my kind of film. I really like stories that play with memory and memory loss, so I really enjoyed the plot. However, the ending did concern me because John could easily become some kind of god-like figure if no one else evolves to be able to tune; I’m not sure that’s such a good idea for that city. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. But my absolute favourite part was how beautiful this film looks. From the set design and set dressing, to the use of darkness and shadows, this kind of movie is eye candy for me. I can’t get over how fabulous the overall aesthetics are in this film.

I swear I’m a GOOD GUY 😛

The House of the Witch (2017): So far, this is the most bland film of my Spooktober lineup. Absolutely nothing about this TV movie is unique or interesting. It was filled with so many common horror tropes that it was just a bunch of stuff I’ve already seen plenty of times before, and none of it was particularly well done. The plot is simple, predictable, and almost non-existent. The characters are so poorly developed that they can barely even be considered stereotypes. The gore was just ok, and the makeup and other special effects were even less impressive. And the scares were unimpressive. I got distracted at one point and had to rewind a few minutes to see what I missed (not much). By the second time that happened, I decided not to go back because what I had missed that time probably wasn’t all that important.

Insidious (2010): When this movie first came out, I didn’t want to see it because I thought it looked too scary. Around that time, I was still pretty new to horror and I was a few years away from starting my annual Spooktober Movie Marathon. Now that I have more experience with horror films, and now that Netflix has all of the Insidious movies available, I wanted to give this one a try. Since getting into horror, I have really become enamored with the work of James Wan, so I was hopeful that I would enjoy this. Boy, did I ever. I am so glad I watched this movie. I really love Wan’s directorial style, so this movie was right up my alley. I really liked the look of the ghosts and demons, and I especially loved the the red faced demon’s workshop with all of the creepy puppets. Plus, I got a giggle out of the Jigsaw reference. Oh, and it wasn’t too scary for me (although it did give me chills). I’m excited to see the sequels now – I hope they do the franchise justice.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013): Although not as strong as the original, I enjoyed the story in this sequel. I’m a sucker for anything that messes with time, so I appreciated the fact that The Further doesn’t adhere to the rules of time and space as we know them. However, I did not like the fact that this movie went with the old, overused, inappropriate trope where the trans identifying character is evil. It really wasn’t necessary for that to be a part of the backstory. Aside from the plot, I really liked the camera work in this film. Perhaps it was similar to the first film, but I noticed it more in Chapter 2. And given how significant the colour red was in Chapter 1, I really liked how that colour was incorporated into the sequel.

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015): This is the point where the franchise took a nosedive for me. Without even having to look it up, it’s obvious just from the style that this film was not directed by James Wan. Even the lighting is warmer compared to the previous two films, and the musical score is clearly more generic. The story is mediocre, and the only value it adds to the series is that it gives Elsie a bit more of an interesting backstory and shows how she met Specs and Tucker. Rather than being a continuation of the previous chapters, this is a prequel to show what Elsie was up to before the first chapter. However, the story wasn’t even really about Elsie. Also, some of the characters who seem like they might be important, or at least recurring, pretty much end up getting forgotten about half way through the film. This one bored me a little.

Insidious: The Last Key (2018): The final chapter of the Insidious films takes place between Chapters 3 and 1. It’s not quite as good as the first two films, but it is definitely better than Chapter 3. Not only is the story stronger but, stylistically, I found it more in line with the films that James Wan directed. And Elsie finally gets to be the star. The backstory revealed for her in The Last Key is much stronger than her backstory in Chapter 3. Out of all four films, this one definitely has the best special effects makeup. The red faced demon certainly looks good, but the man with the keys looks superior. The details of that makeup are phenomenal, and I adore the key fingers. Plus, Javier Botet is the one wearing this monster makeup and I’m a fan of some of his other roles in horror films. Anyone familiar with my Doug Jones obsession knows that I love actors who can properly bring movie monsters to life.

Bubs doesn’t mind my spooky makeup. In fact, he was purring so much I thought that he might also be a fan of Chucky.

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